First Down And I Can't Get Up!

Sarasota, FL (CompNewsNetwork) - The winner of Superbowl XLIII will be the major news headline on the morning of February 2, 2009. No groundhog or odds maker can really predict the outcome. Will the game be overshadowed by lackluster play and key injuries or will the better team dominate? Last year, Plaxico Burress caught Eli Manning's perfect pass in the end zone with just a few seconds remaining to put a sudden and unexpected end to the Patriot's perfect season. When Burress shot himself in the thigh in a New York nightclub in November little did he realize he literally shot the Giants in the foot-ball. Consequently, the seemingly invincible Giants lost 4 of their last 5 regular season games and also the playoff game. Unfortunately, for Plaxico, he's ineligible for workers' compensation insurance because the injury, though accidental, was self-inflicted and did not occur while he was working.

Many people don't know that professional football players, with their multi-million dollar contracts, are eligible for workers compensation insurance in most states. Texas and California have specific provisions for professional athletes. Some states, in fact, do not have workers' compensation laws for professional football players. Maryland, at one time, did not consider professional football injuries as being "accidental." In Florida, professional sports players are not eligible for workers' compensation (440, 02(17)(c)(3)).

We looked for some examples of compensable sports injuries in the case law library of Here are some of the more interesting one's we found:

On August 1, 2001, Korey Stringer, (Kelci Stringer v. Minnesota Vikings, #A03-1635, 11-15-05), died of complications from heat stroke. Stringer collapsed after the morning practice on the second day of training camp in Mankato, Minnesota. His body temperature, when first measured was 108 degrees Fahrenheit. Stringer's wife, Kelci, sued the Vikings and Korey's trainers for failure to administer properly to Korey's condition which may have contributed to his death. Stringer's death brought about major changes regarding heat stroke prevention throughout the NFL. His death also addressed complications of pressuring players to "bulk up" to well over 300 lbs. Stringer, who at the time of his death was 6'4" and weighed 335 lbs., was at the lowest weight he had ever been in his pro career. Many teams now train in light color uniforms, water and shade are made readily available, and a team doctor is at practice sessions at all times.

In October 2000, Chad Hennings of the Dallas Cowboys, (Gulf Insurance v. Hennings, #10-06-00192-CV, 1-30-08), suffered a neck injury during a game. Henning's retired after the injury and sued for workers compensation benefits. Hennings says that he was not required to elect which benefits to choose because, as a matter of law considering Rule 112.402(a)(2), his medical benefits under his employment contract, which terminated, did not exceed the lifetime medical benefits available under the Act. A two-judge panel of the Waco Court of Appeals decided former Dallas Cowboy football player Chad Hennings could recover workers compensation benefits in addition to his contractual salary and medical benefits.

In December 1999, Michael Swift, (Swift v.Carolina Panthers, #013054, 4-5-05), tried to block an extra point attempt but a number of opposing players fell on the back of his leg. He suffered a broken right fibula and severe tearing in the tendons of his ankle. The ankle injury impaired his speed and mobility and was career-ending. At the time of the injury, plaintiff was taking all reasonable measures to protect himself from injury given the nature of the game. It was unexpected and unusual for a player to fall on Swift in this way so as to break his fibula and cause such a tear in his ankle tendon. He was awarded benefits because it was determined his injury was accidental due to the fact he had blocked extra point attempts in the past and was never injured.

On September 28, 1997, Jeffrey Uhlenhake (Washington Redskins v. Uhlenhake, #0275-01-4,1-29-02) sustained an injury when another player fell on his left ankle and foot. In November of the same year he felt a "pop and pain" in his left knee when blocking an opposing player. The Workers' Compensation Commission entered an award of permanent partial disability benefits for injury to his left foot and denied him an award of benefits for injury to his left knee. It was determined his left knee injury resulted from cumulative trauma and, therefore, was not compensable.

On August 25, 1995, John L. Williams (Pittsburgh Steelers v. Williams, #1007 C.D. 2002, 1-8-03) injured his right knee when he dove for a pass and struck his knee on the turf. Williams acknowledged that he suffered a collateral ligament strain to his right knee in 1984 while playing college football. The commission concluded that for an injury to be compensable, it is not required that the injury resulted from any sudden occurrence or accident; it may be due to repetitive trauma or aggravation of a preexisting condition while playing football.

On December 30, 1990, Ronnie Lippett of the New England Patriots (Trust Fund v. Lippett, #02625499, 5-6-02) was hurt in a game. Lippett continued to play football for two more seasons, and then retired. His claim for workers' compensation benefits, filed after his retirement, was settled in a lump sum agreement. His injury was not subject to a statute of limitations. The administrative judge's award of reimbursement under §37 concluded that the disability suffered by Lippett combined with the disabilities resulting from his previous football injuries created a physical impairment that was substantially greater than a disability which would have resulted from the 1990 injury alone.

Professional football players, with all their fame and fortune, are human just like the rest of us. Injuries happen. Perhaps it's best summed up by a quote of Dick Butkus, "When I played pro football, I never set out to hurt anyone deliberately - unless it was, you know, important, like a league game or something."

Read More

Request a Demo

To request a free demo of one of our products, please fill in this form. Our sales team will get back to you shortly.